The Last Ottoman Shaykh ul-Islam: Mustafa Sabri Effendi

Mustafa Sabri was brought into position at a stage when the Ottoman state was under both internal and external attacks.

The Last Ottoman Shaykh ul-Islam: Mustafa Sabri Effendi

World Bulletin - Talha Bozkurt

If one were to dwell into the 20th century to explore and determine the personalities whom have grasped and encompassed all of the traditional sciences of the Islamic Civilisation, Shaykh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri would be at the pinnacle.

Mustafa Sabri, the last spiritual leader of the Ottoman Empire, was born in Tokat,1869. After memorizing the Holy Quran at a young age he embarked on a journey to the cities of Kayseri and Istanbul to prepare the foundations of a quest which will ultimately end in his appointment as Shaykh al-Islam: the highest religious authorithy in the Ottoman bureucracy.

Clash with the Republican Elite and Exile

Mustafa Sabri was brought into position at a stage when the Ottoman state was under both internal and external attacks. His broad intellectual capacity and sharp insight allowed him to take the bull by the horns and voice a resistance against a militantly secularist administration which after succeeding in toppling the Ottoman Caliphate, objectified a system in opposal to that of a Divine one. His constant rebellion against the regime which had repealed the Islamic state stimulated them to silence him once and for all. Consequently, leading to his indispensable migration.

The newly formed secularist government was aware that Mustafa Sabri had posessed the reasoning and capacity to form a new government, hereby seeing him as a potential threat. His supreme clairvoyance gave him the ability to percieve matters beyond the range of ordinary perception. All these factors had contributed to Mustafa Sabri's forced escapes to Romania, Greece and finally Egypt.

During his stay in Romania, Turkey’s ally Germany had invaded Bucharest, this had lead to the whereabouts of Mustafa Sabri to be revealed. Once news had reached the Republican Elite, Mustafa Sabri was ordered to be captured and sent to jail. Thereafter he was sent back to Istanbul to stand trial. Upon a 5 hour awaital for his verdict at the Military Tribunal, Mustafa Sabri was on the conviction that he would be sentenced to death, to the extent that he would pray his final prayers as if it were “the prayer of the person bidding farewell to this world”. After a long 5 hour discussion/disputation between the jury, they had finally decided to exile Mustafa Sabri. The judge had been quoted to have said: “ I cannot bare to sentence this man(Mustafa Sabri) to death, because his struggles are in the cause of his beliefs, ideologies.

Indeed, assasination attempts forced Sabri Efendi to reside in non-muslim. With the sole concern of not wanting to die and be buried in a non-islamic country, he sent the following letter to the surrounding Islamic countries. Sabri writes:

“ I am Mustafa Sabri, the recent Shaykh ul-Islam of the Ottoman Empire. I do not have a passport. Whether as a guest or as a refugee, I want to enter your country. In any way you accept…”

In spite of this desperate appeal for help, he was despicably rejected.Luckily however in his final role of the dice he had decided to visit the Egyptian Consulate in Athens. Fortunately, they had dealt with someone public-spirited who was eager to help. The consulate was distressed by Mustafa Sabris situation. He had granted Mustafa Sabri and his family a visa pass to Egypt and had also expressed his bemusement adding

“My goodness! Were this situation to afflict the Pope, what would the relevance of the Christian world be like? I am taking all the responsibilities. If they like, they can sack me from my job, imprison me or sentence me to death for commiting a political crime… In risking everything I am granting you a visa!”

Upon arrival into Egypt, Sabri Efendi encountered a wave of superstitious ideoligies lead by Muhammed Abduh. However, after penning a few intellectually written responses, Sabri Efendi extinguished the perverse views Abduh had ignited. He had expressed his accomplishment by asserting that “My success, is solely due to my perseverance of advocating the Truth”

His troubles and ordeals

Majority of the ordeals Mustafa faced was due to his prodigious endeavour in campaigning for what he believed to be right; no position or status could ever propel Sabri from advocating the truth. For example, were he to approve and applaud the new secularist government and stayed in Turkey, he would have lived a prosperous life. However, he conversely negated and refused any offer which would have to see him compromise from the truth. Among the complexities and tribulations Shaykh ul-Islam Mustafa Sabri confronted during his migration are as follows:

At a time when the Indians were protesting the English administration, the preeminent leader of Indian Nationalism Mahatma Gandhi decided to go on a hunger-strike. If his strike would reach its objective, ultimately resulting in the death of Gandhi, it would initiate a nationwide rebellion,hence, leading to a possible revolution. Upon hearing of this hungerstrike throughout the ample attention in received via media, including the Muslim owned newsagencies, Shaykh ul-Islam Mustafa Sabri was reported to have stated the following words:

“ Gandhi decides to start a hunger-strike, and the whole world has shaken from its place. The Ottoman Shaykh ul-Islam, with his family, has been starving for years and the Islamic world is unaware. The Ottoman dynasty is in such a miserable state, it’s Shaykh ul-Islam would eat dry beans for months, and nobody would be aware of this…”

There is both in the life, and also in the death of Shaykh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri many important lessons for future generation who desire to serve their religion and advocate rightousness to its very final drop. He was quoted to have said: “ This cause is in need of such a sacrifice, that one one must not only be prepared to sacrifice this life, but also the lifeafter”. Verily, Mustafa Sabri’s life was a unique display of this sacrifice.

He died and was buried in Egypt, in 1954. He has left behind a treasure chest of works which to this day still illuminates and nourishes the minds of students and academics. His successors such as his student Shaykh Emin Siraj, considered the candle of Istanbul, continues to teach the sciences of Islam using the traditional Ottoman method. May Allāh grant Shaykyul Islam Mustafa Sabri mercy, forgiveness and peace, and bless him with the highest of ranks in Paradise. Ameen.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Ağustos 2013, 13:48